This was departure day! We left as we had come - in two groups but this time not nearly as conveniently timed. Group A (Adeline, Ariel, Ben, Louisa, Mason and Bev) left at 2.3oam! Despite the early hour, our drivers were there promptly to pick us up and Mary came to the center to bid us farewell, too! Group B (Caitlin, Courtney, Daniel, Devin, Haley, Mike and Stef) could sleep in and left later that morning.
My group (A) travelled under cover of dark and, once again, encountered dense fog, but this time, thankfully, not for long. We also missed the incredible views from the winding mountain road. This was, perhaps, a blessing in disguise because a number of the passengers in Group B, we later learned, became rather sick from looking at the windy road, curving round and round through the mountains.
We munched on sandwiches provided by the friendly cooks from Centro Espiral Mana, as we waited for our flight at the San Jose airport. Yes, we were taken care of right to the last moment! The flight went smoothly with a short layover in Atlanta. By evening we were breathing the cool New England air at Logan airport. Another van ride awaited us and there was much exchanging of news and views with our driver, Mike.
(Perhaps a big strangely, Thursday was the only day it rained here in El INVU throughout the entire two-week trip. The weather struck an appropriately different tone for this bittersweet closing day of our practicum experience.)
At 3:15 PM Thursday afternoon, just as our TESOL group was about to begin our final group reflection and project presentation session, news reached us at Central Espiral Maná that there was a rare Scarlet Macaw sighting in the nearby town of San Isidro. Within four minutes, our group had quickly piled into three vehicles and were already en route. Ten minutes later, we were standing on a dirt road in full awe of the macaws -- large red, yellow, and blue parrots native to South America. A group of six or seven magnificent macaws were perched in trees bordering the road, and we eagerly snapped photos, admired the birds, and had a moment to connect with nature.
As Director Mary Scholl noted, "This experience is a great metaphor for teaching. When you are presented with teachable moments, you need to seize the opportunity." And we did indeed seize the opportunity to see the macaws with gusto. What a lovely gift for us to receive on our last full day in Costa Rica.
Today was the final day of working with our English students, and the day of our hike. Although all three teaching groups were hiking the same trail at around the same time, we did this in separate groups.
My group (Ariel, Ben, Daniel, Haley) led them through the trail
backwards. We had done a scavenger hunt to review the vocabulary in class the day before, and students were given the same vocabulary lists.
At one point some of them started yelling “Sloth, sloth!”, pointing to a sloth hanging high in the tree. It was gratifying to see them effectively communicate in English something that we as guides hadn’t noticed (and of course the sloths we saw were incredibly cute). Other highlights of the hike for my group included seeing armies of ants carry leaves on their backs and finding a ton of fish by throwing small pieces of cookies into the water.
The lesson planning sessions have been intensifying every day, but something was different this morning. That afternoon was to be our final class before the jungle trek, and we spent breakfast spitting out ideas for how to bring some closure to our students. While doing so meant attempting to avoid the same action with our food, it turned out to be quite productive; after washing our dishes, we spent the next four hours planning, rehearsing, and mastering the art of cutting construction paper. It’s a good thing, too; it was hotter today than most since our time here, and even the dogs had settled down enough to leave our feedback workshop unperturbed.
Though the stress of bringing all the material from the past 8 days into one lesson took its toll (in the form of nervous laughter, face-palming, and manic watermelon juice consumption), our class’s reaction to today’s lessons has prompted a strange thought in our group: what if the kids are too smart for us to screw this up for them? All we can think of is how we’ve bumbled around for over a week, trying to draw animals and gesturing wildly in the hopes that we may stall them long enough with our antics to stumble across a recognizable cognate; but, every day, the children show up, say hello through their impressively well-maintained smiles, and proceed to stun us with how much they’ve remembered.
All we need to do now if figure out how to get ten highly intelligent wee ones across an ant-infested jungle floor using only English. But we have tomorrow to figure that out.
Today our entire group taught in the morning for the first time. This was a different experience for the groups that had been teaching at the Center! Despite the fact that our students were on vacation, they still showed up for class. Several people mentioned that students lose a fair amount of vocabulary over the weekend. This was very true in the youngest class at the center! For the 6-12 class, today was a day of review and practicing sentences for the hike on Wednesday. After teaching all morning, many of us were feeling the affects of the heat and went to La Pechuga (the swimming hole) for a swim.
Later in the afternoon, we went back to the trail where we would take our students hiking on Wednesday. This was our chance to figure out what exactly we wanted to show our students and how to best structure the activities or worksheets that they would be doing during the hike. We also learned some new things related to the hike such as what an agouti is, and that if you are ever unsure about whether something is infested with ants, chances are, it probably is.
After the hike, we headed back to the center for dinner and to plan our final full lesson.
HELLOOOO, my name is Devin and I am a member of the awesome cool BABY-SLOTH TEAM with Mike, Addie, and Stefanie!! We teach ages 12 and up (even up to 33) at Centro Espiral Mana.
TODAY was our first day off! After four days of straight teaching and spending almost the entire day THINKING AND PLANNING AND NOT GOING SWIMMING...WE FINALLY got to go SWIMMING! Our big group of TESOLers was split between the fun relaxing hot springs and an exciting thrilling canyoneering expedition.
The hot springs was a nice little local spot made for Ticos and right in front of the volcano!! They had a variety of hot and cold pools and even a WATER SLIDE!! The atmosphere was rather chill and it wasn't overcrowded either. Roger, one of our trainers overcame his fear of the slide and...slowly slid down while we cheered him on!
It's day six, and the air is thick here at the Centro. Literally, the
air is thick and this has been one of the most humid days we've experienced yet, and as I step out of the classroom to grab a bite to eat, I'm practically dripping with sweat. But the air's also thick with excitement and energy, bright and loud.
Today's the day, it seems, that everybody pulled it together, as every person in every group seems to be positively thrumming. Certainly the fact that it's Friday has something to do with it (as does perhaps the impending promise of hot springs and ice cream in La Fortuna tomorrow), but for those teaching the older group and for those teaching the young 'uns, lessons just wrapped up and I see no thunderclouds above any heads, so I'm assuming it's the lessons.
My own group (Team Baby Sloth!), which consists of Adeline, Stefanie, Devin, and myself, certainly pulled through today with one hell of a powerhouse lesson. Addie went first, taking on the difficult task of opening classes (difficult because it's always impossible to tell exactly when class will start, or exactly how many students we'll start off with) with aplomb, wrapping up Devin's lesson about celery and hypotheses from Thursday before diving into her own lesson and introducing the students to the our theme for the day, Water in Costa Rica. Stefanie followed up with a million-and-a-half little experiments for the students, including one particularly cool diorama involving tin foil, water, toilet paper, and food coloring that quite nicely explained the effects of erosion on the environment. Following a brief break, I took my turn at bat, covering the past tense with a couple of games and a great, big Ad Libs-style activity I expected a reasonable response from the students, but I was shocked at how much they got into all of my activities. Devin wrapped up our lesson for the day with a rousing game of Taboo, cleverly turned from a rather competitive game into a fantastic team-building exercise that had the students shouting in startlingly perfect English. To wrap up the day, our group presented the class with some maple sugar candy that we had brought with us from the great snowy North, which they gobbled up in a matter of seconds.
So, spirits are soaring, grub is on, and the fresca is particularly good as we all settle into our first Friday evening and our fifth day of teaching at the Centro.
Thursday was our third day teaching. It was also over 90 degrees that day. It was really hot and although we had gotten to cool off the day before at the river near Mary’s house today we were not so fortunate. Lesson planning had taken over the day. We thought longingly of jumping off the bridge of la pechuga-the river that ran through the town, it translates into english as chicken breast, named because of it’s shape- into the deep, cool water instead of sweating away in the heat lesson planning. But we were just starting to get into the groove so we continued onwards, producing some awesome lessons!
Devin, Addie, Mike, and Stef created a pretend hike in an effort to get their students prepared for the hike that would take place at the end of the trip. They also covered water cycles and introduced vocabulary so their students could talk about different climates, ecotourism, cloudforests, and diverse habitats.
It’s our fourth day at the Centro Espiral Mana School, and the cicadas are as active as ever. Some teachers went swimming today at La Pechuga swimming hole to release some teaching stress, and escape the heat for just a little while.
The group teaching the youngest group (6 to 12 year olds) taught the students prepositions of location today, as well as reviewed the animals and nature nouns we taught on Tuesday. One activity that was particularly successful, yet not planned, was when we had the kids stand in a row and asked certain people to stand next to, behind or in front of another person.
For the group teaching in San Isidro, there were a lot of sudden changes in teaching schedules because of miscommunication with the school. It was difficult to adjust their lesson plans to fit into the children’s schedule, but they grew closer as a group because of it. Ariel did a tree find, which was an activity where each student has a partner and one is blindfolded, and each student leads their partner to a certain tree and the person has to find it again. This activity went very well with the kids and assisted in their learning.
Today, the group teaching young adults introduced the terms environment, ecosystem and ecology, which will be extremely useful when on the final class hike. A particularly funny moment of the day was when Mike said, “Monkeys don’t give a sh**,” when he actually said, “Monkeys don’t eat fish.” This was a funny moment that gave a light air to the day’s lessons. Overall, the group felt like their lessons fit together well, which was exciting because that was their first official day of teaching. Caitlin Hargrove
For the sixth grade group our first day in front of a class started bright and early. We awoke at 6:45 to meet and go over lesson plans before leaving for the school at about 8:30. That day the plan was for each of us to teach a 30-minute game. As we arrived our mentor Amanda told us not to worry our only goal for the day was not to die faint or, if at all possible, bleed in front of the class, if we succeeded in those things our first day of teaching would be a success. The teaching day began with name games lead by Amanda and Daniel and then progressed through all of our lessons. I went first and taught left right go stop quickly and slowly in a game where the kids blindfolded a partner and led them around with the new words.
Ariel taught wide-angle vision and colors with a perfusion of I spy activities. Daniel taught numbers culminating in a telephone number game and Hailey taught animals using stuffed creatures and charades. All in all none of us bled, fainted or died and the kids seemed to have fun so it went pretty well. We returned to the center and had lunch before the entire class got together and attended a teaching workshop with the trainers. We then split into individual groups and received feedback. Then, while the other groups taught their first lessons we got together and planned for the next day.
12 students from Marlboro College came to our school to teach English to local children and young adults. Their project is to teach "Environmental English" so that at the end of the 8 day course the students can take a hike and talk about nature (in English) and do activities on the trail that help them develop their awareness of tropical river ecology. Our town, San Isidro de Peñas Blancas has created the River walk to raise awareness of environmental issues affecting our area.